Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks Controversial Ohio Law Requiring Parental Consent for Children’s Social Media Use

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A federal judge temporarily halted the enforcement of an Ohio law on Tuesday that would have required children to obtain parental consent in order to use social media apps. The Ohio law is similar to ones signed by Utah Governor Spencer Cox, which prohibit minors from using social media between certain hours and require age verification to open and maintain an account. These restrictions aim to protect children from targeted advertisements and addictive features that can have negative impacts on their mental health. The temporary restraining order was issued after a lawsuit was brought by NetChoice, a trade group representing major tech companies such as TikTok, Snapchat, and Meta.

NetChoice has successfully challenged similar restrictions in California and Arkansas and previously sued the state of Utah in December 2023. The organization argues that these laws violate the right to free speech and are too broad and vague. U.S. District Court Judge Algenon Marbley, while acknowledging the intent to protect children, stated that it is unlikely Ohio can demonstrate that the law is narrowly tailored to achieve its goals. Marbley criticized the law for limiting minors’ access to all content on covered websites without parental consent, calling it an excessively blunt measure. The Ohio law, set to take effect on January 15, is similar to laws enacted in other states.

In addition to Ohio, dozens of states filed a lawsuit against Meta Platforms Inc. in October 2023, accusing the social media company of harming young people and contributing to the youth mental health crisis. The lawsuit alleges that Meta intentionally designed features on Instagram and Facebook to addict children to its platforms and collect data on children under 13 without parental consent. According to the complaint, Meta has concealed the dangers of its platforms and manipulated vulnerable consumers, namely teenagers and children.

The Ohio law, known as the Social Media Parental Notification Act, would require social media companies to obtain parental permission for children under 16 to sign up for their apps. It also mandates that companies provide parents with privacy guidelines regarding content censorship and moderation on their child’s profile. The law was part of an $86.1 billion state budget bill signed by Ohio Republican Governor Mike DeWine. The measure was promoted as a means to safeguard children’s mental health, with Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted stating that social media is intentionally addictive and harmful to kids.

NetChoice, representing tech giants like TikTok, has filed a lawsuit against Ohio’s Republican Attorney General Dave Yost, arguing that the state’s regulations restrict public content access, compromise data security, and undermine parental rights. The temporary halt of the Ohio law will remain in place until further legal proceedings.